New cultural diversity committee considers creating a new community celebration
May 21, 2018 01:17PM
By Carl Fauver
Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson, Planning Commission Chairwoman Lynette Wendel and City Councilwoman Meredith Harker (L-R) share a laugh during the Cultural Diversity Committee open house. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
Taylorsville City’s new Cultural Diversity Committee is off to a running start and making Utah history, according to one of its members.
“I’ve done a lot of research on this, and I believe Taylorsville is the first Salt Lake Valley city to establish a cultural diversity committee, designed to strengthen relations between the different people who live here,” said committee member Thomas Reams. “I’m a born and raised Utahn. But marrying into a different culture has been very rewarding. I’m excited to be involved.”
Thomas Reams is treasurer of the American Venezuelan Association of Utah, while his wife, Maria Liliana, is the association’s vice president. They, along with AVAU President Carlos Moreno, are among the driving forces getting the new committee launched.
Shortly after the Taylorsville City Council voted to establish the new committee — the city’s first new committee in many years — the cultural diversity group decided to transform its first official meeting into an open house at city hall.
“Our goal is to try to bring our minority communities into contact with city government,” Carlos Moreno said. “I feel we can do so many good things to support local government. I love to serve and do not expect any payment. We simply want to help improve our community.”
The city’s newest councilman, Curt Cochran, is the council adviser to the committee.
“This is your committee,” Cochran said. “I’m just here to lend a helping hand. This needs to be a two-way street where members of the committee learn more about government and we learn more about the great diversity of people living in our city.”
One of the first things discussed at the open house was a desire by several committee members to look into launching a brand-new Taylorsville community celebration.
“Salt Lake has hosted its annual Living Traditions Festival for many years,” Moreno said. “And I believe Taylorsville is every bit as culturally diverse as Salt Lake, maybe more so.”
The Taylorsville open house was held just a few weeks before the 33rd Annual Salt Lake Living Traditions Festival, at Washington Square and Library Square, downtown. Started in 1986, the event highlights the music, dance, foods and crafts of cultures from Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Islands.
Until such a large undertaking can be more carefully considered, new members of the Cultural Diversity Committee were encouraged to set up a booth and be active providing information during this month’s Taylorsville Dayzz celebration, June 28–30.
Group members said they are now providing free Latin dancing lessons at a Taylorsville studio and said they have some dancers who will likely tryout to perform during the annual celebration.
Another member of the committee, Adriana Thorup, volunteered to lend a hand helping immigrants to learn English.
“When I first moved to the United States (from Venezuela), I landed in New Jersey,” Thorup said. “I had learned a little English in high school but really needed to know much more. So, I completely immersed myself in studying it for about eight months. Since then, I have been an ESL tutor for the Granite School District for 13 years."
Thorup volunteered to help teach English, for no charge, to anyone — regardless of what their primary language is.
“I’ve always wanted to do something to help the community, and this seems like a good way to do it.” Thorup said. “English is essential for people to become involved.”
Three city council members attended the Cultural Diversity Committee open house, along with Unified Police Department Taylorsville Precinct Chief Tracy Wyant, Mayor Kristie Overson and Planning Commission Chairwoman Lynette Wendel, among others.
Wendel encouraged members of the group to apply to serve on the Planning Commission, while Wyant asked committee members to assure their minority communities they can always feel safe in contacting police for assistance, without fear of being asked about their immigration status.
“Unless you are involved in felonious activities, we pay no attention to immigration status,” Wyant said. “So, please don’t hesitate to call us if you have issues.”
The open house ended with plans for the new committee to elect its chair and vice chair, along with hosting a brainstorming session to determine which of its many plans to strengthen minority relations with Taylorsville government should be pursued first.